Paul’s advice to stay unmarried—like his advice for any circumstance—is about complete devotion to Christ.
It’s good to remain unmarried.
These words aren’t mine but the apostle Paul’s (1 Cor. 7:8). Yet despite their source, they’re not words we’re likely to hear enthusiastically preached from evangelical pulpits today.
I don’t recall being very aware of these words from Paul when I married young, just out of Bible college, where the faculty told girls they’d actually come for an “MRS degree” and gave classes on Christian family and marital responsibilities. In the years since, I’ve heard countless sermons on marriage, some describing it as the “pinnacle of creation,” others telling me that every woman’s “greatest joy in life” is being a wife and mother.
And my experience isn’t unusual. Church classes on marriage are de rigueur. Christians have reams of publications on marriage and traditional family values. Polling shows white evangelicals really do emphasize marriage and children in a way that most other religious groups do not: They think marriage is “important to living a fulfilling life.” And a recent CT article argued that nowhere does the Bible endorse long-term singleness that is not deliberately chosen for the sake of the gospel.
What would Paul make of all this noise about marriage? What would he think of our tendency to assume the experience of marriage is universal, our arguments that Christians should seek marriage, and the assumption that it’s an essential component of the life of faith?
He might wonder why we give so much attention to something that can compete with our devotion to the Lord. He might say: Stop talking so much about marriage—I think these singles will flourish …